Support Group

I tried pills first, and when I woke up the next morning, I decided to jump off a bridge. The bridge swayed under my feet that night as I stood beside my car, hazard lights still on. I walked a few feet. I thought about my son asleep next to Holly, my wife, who will soon be my ex-wife. I thought about my daughter growing inside of my wife, who will soon be my ex-wife. I thought about the man, with whom I had had the affair, and I realized that I didn’t want to die; I was just afraid of what would come next. I called Holly and asked for help.

I completed a 72-hour inpatient psychiatric evaluation, and then a two-week partial hospitalization program, and I emerge, if not better, then on my way to better. I find an online support group, a forum where hundreds of people from across the country who have tried to kill themselves at the end of relationships—most hiding behind screen names—share their stories.

Noose hung herself from a ceiling fan in a third-floor bedroom in a house she and her ex-husband bought to renovate and sell for a profit. The market tanked, as did her marriage, and he walked out. There’s nothing for me here, he told her. He packed three bags. He took their cat, Fitzgerald (as in F. Scott, an author she had introduced him to), and told her he wasn’t coming back. She thought she should be happy to be alone. She hadn’t really loved him in a while. But she wasn’t happy, and one night, after watching a movie on television based on a Nicholas Sparks’ book, she got a piece of rope out of the garage, tied what she thought was a tight enough noose, knotted it to the ceiling fan, dragged a chair underneath the fan, stood on it, tightened the noose around her neck, sang “Walking on Sunshine” to herself, and jumped off the chair before singing the last sunshine in the song. She hung there for several hours, pissed herself twice, and badly needed to eat before she decided she wasn’t going to die.

Drano had only been with his girlfriend for six weeks before she told him she was pregnant with another man’s baby. She loved him, but thought he should know. They had been eating dinner in the kitchen when she told him. He didn’t say anything. He got up, opened the cabinet under the sink, pulled out a bottle of Drano, opened it and slugged it down. The Drano burned going down, he says. He passed out, woke up in a hospital; his now-ex-girlfriend had called 911 and had left him there. He hadn’t talked to her since.

Wrists and Veins each slit their wrists at the end of a relationship. Wrists doesn’t say much about what led to his attempt. Veins is a talker. He says he thought bleeding would feel somehow different. He didn’t do it in a bathtub. He did it in his living room, on a couch, in front of the television. He thought he would bleed until he fell asleep and then die. He neither fell asleep nor died. Instead, his blood clotted, and he watched four hours of ESPN. Veins hates sports.

Car Crash drove into a tree. Didn’t die. Neither did the tree. Instead, after she was released from the hospital, she returned to the tree and erected a memorial to herself. She hung a wreath, displayed a pink teddy bear, lit four candles, and said goodbye to whom she had been. When she walked away from the memorial, she decided to change her name, dye her hair red and get a tattoo. Anything to not be the woman who had failed, she says. I tell her I got a tattoo, too. I understand, I tell her. She says it’s nice to find someone who does.

Carver carved the name of his ex-wife into his chest. If her name had been something like Samantha or Bernadette or Virginia, instead of Sue, maybe carving the letters of her name on his body would have killed him.

Gunshot shot himself in the head, remembers what the bullet felt like entering his forehead (or what he thinks he remembers as what the bullet felt like entering his forehead). Wasn’t his time, he says. After getting out of the regular hospital and then a psychiatric hospital, he started going to church. He was re-baptized. He quotes scriptures. He thinks all of us failed suicides have gifts from God still to share.

There are others, several dozen others, each with a heartbreaking story that makes mine seem ridiculous by comparison. But I share my story. I talk about the pills and the bridge. I do not know if they have nicknamed me: I use my real name. I say I’m too busy inventing my future to worry about fudging details. Who I was is whom I needed to be to get here.

Drano doesn’t write anything for nearly four weeks, and some of us begin to worry. The birth of the child that wasn’t his is imminent. The last he wrote, he told us he made the mistake of calling his ex-girlfriend to find out how she was doing and she said she was doing fine and she told him about the baby – a boy – and that he was growing well and was due soon. Drano asked if he could see her and she had said maybe, once the baby was born. The baby’s father wasn’t in the picture. Drano thought that maybe he could rewrite their future by being the man he should have been in the beginning.

His not writing is alarming because he is something of a message board regular. He comments often on what we write, poses questions to consider and frequently suggests that we share where we live. Maybe some of us live near enough to meet in person, he suggests. But there are unwritten rules. If I discovered that I live near one or more of them, and then we met and got to know each other as people and not just as screen names, I think sharing would become more difficult.

We do not know each other as more than a screen name and a story. We recognize in each other an absent desperation that once felt thick like molasses. We recognize in each other the relief of second chances. We recognize in each other what surviving feels like. Kind of a like a life coach, what we group members are to each other. We are not invested in each other as people. We are invested in each other insomuch as we want each other to continue living and growing, but we are essentially strangers.

This makes Drano’s absence alarming. It’s not just because he’s missing, but also because I care. I start logging into the site three, four, five times a day to see if he has posted anything. One starts a post about him, and we circle it like vultures, waiting for a sign that he is OK. Someone, maybe me, wonders if there’s a way to find out if he’s dead. But we don’t know where he lives, so checking obituaries is out of the question. He may not even live in the United States.

Drano continues to not post to the message boards. Several of us continue to worry.

I have forgotten why I thought I had no other options, I write one afternoon. I shouldn’t be posting to the suicide group from work, but the site is not blocked and I do not feel much like working. I haven’t taken a lunch break. I tell myself that posting to the group is my lunch break.

I have forgotten why I thought I had no other options. I do not remember what the pills felt like going down my throat, but I do remember how the cheap white wine tasted. I do not think I will drink white wine again.

I have forgotten why I thought I had no other options. I have not seen him in several weeks. The sound of his voice, the taste of his mouth when we kissed, the excitement of seeing him—escaping into him, into his world—is lost to memory. Why did I need to escape? Why did I hate myself?

I have forgotten to be angry—even what being angry feels like. I can no longer recall what the extra six inches on my waist that I have now lost felt like. I can’t remember why I wanted to marry him.

I have forgotten why I thought I had no other options.

Noose tells me she hasn’t cried in some time like she did after reading my post. Gunshot tells me to man up. Don’t tell us what you’ve forgotten, he writes. Tell us what you won’t forget; that’s what I want to read. Tell us that you won’t forget what standing on that bridge felt like because you never want to feel it again. Tell us you won’t forget what escaping your life felt like because you are actually living your life. Tell us you won’t forget what loving someone felt like, because you deserve to fall in love again, and you should remember what you do and don’t want.

Car Crash thanks me for writing what she has been unable to write. She’s tried, she says. She feels like she’s ready to let go of any lingering shame; but, she has a hard time admitting that only after she tried to die, did she begin to live. I respond that I like those words: only after I tried to die, did I begin to live. I tell her I may steal her words and use them somewhere. Maybe a tattoo. She tells me to go ahead, gifts me the words, but only if I feel they are true.

Veins (as opposed to Wrists, who doesn’t comment on our posts much) tells me I should be a poet. I tell him I’m not a poet, but that I am trying to live a poetic life. I do not explain what I mean. I do not think I know quite what I mean, but I know I mean whatever I mean.

Drano killed himself. That’s why we haven’t heard from him.

Pills, his mother writes on our message board. Hundreds of pills. He was hoarding them. In his medicine cabinet, she found neatly arranged rows of pills—and a note in which he included his username and password for the support group. He asked her to tell us that he was OK. Life isn’t all that; I wish I had succeeded the first time, he writes. Or wrote. Past tense. He is no longer present. His mother thanks us for being in his life. Some on the boards had been talking to him for more than a year. Others, like me, had only known of him for a couple of months.

We ask his mother where we can send flowers. In lieu of flowers, she writes, send money to the website administrator to buy another server. Help others, she says. Help yourselves. He lives – lived – in Galveston, Texas. He was 22-years-old. We who remain don’t know what to say. If Drano can go, any of us can.

william-henderson wearing sunglassesWilliam Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Stork, an Emerson College publication; Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure; Euonia Review (forthcoming); Annalemma Magazine (forthcoming); Curbside Quotidian; How I met …, an online collection of essays detailing intersections, crashes, and other ways we meet people; Sea Giraffe (from which he was awarded the Martius Prize in Nonfiction); and the New England Blade (formerly In Newsweekly), where he served as editor. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s of Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative nonfiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association and the New England Press Association. Currently, he works as a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and is a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He is working on a memoir, House of Cards. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com, on Twitter at @Avesdad, and through his blog, HendersonHouseofCards.wordpress.com.

Print Friendly
  • Wow. This story almost made me cry. I say almost because I read it at work. If I was at home, I guarantee, I’d let it loose. My life has been affected by suicide in several different ways, and I understand the pain. You are never the same.

    • Wil329

      Thank you, Mary. Talking with these guys certainly helped me along my path, and as a result of going through all of this, I’m now working with gay kids who have tried to kill themselves. That’s also been amazing. But there’s strict rules about talking/writing about them. 

  • I thought this was just spectacular. I’m not sure I can think of
    anything else to say about it but that.

  • Aimeegloworm

    Brilliantly paced. I love the refrain,
    “I have forgotten why I thought I had no other options.”

  • Liontamr

    I am astounded. This is so essentially truthful it is almost uncomfortable. Reading it is a gift. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Most Memorable Winner: June 2011 | Hippocampus Magazine()

  • Pingback: The Writer’s Life: Until All That Remains Is What It Is by William Henderson | Hippocampus Magazine – Creative Nonfiction Literary Magazine()